Husky Meadows is getting ready for the upcoming growing season with our new farmer Brett Ellis. Brett comes to Norfolk with his wife Rebecca and baby Andre from The French Laundry in Napa, CA, where he was the grower for their four local restaurants. Brett brings a culinary sensibility to Husky Meadows, not only from this experience but also from his years working in New York City restaurants like Miss Ada and Mas (Farmhouse).
Brett grew up in Michigan and, while in college as a Global and International Studies major, he started his journey in the food world as a dishwasher in a Korean restaurant.
After moving his way up through the kitchen ranks in Michigan, Brett decided a change of scenery in New York would allow him to hone his skills. Through working for a few influential chefs like Galen Zamarra at Mas (Farmhouse), Brett became familiar with searching out high quality ingredients from farms outside the city. He liked cultivating direct relationships with farmers and foragers.
While he was in New York, Brett met his wife Rebecca who is a pastry chef and bread baker and also shares his keen interest in the bigger picture of food production, understanding seasonal ingredients and bringing out their best flavors in creative ways.
About 5 years ago Brett decided he wanted to move in to the farming world. As his motivation to get into kitchens was his desire to eat good food and knowing how to make it, the logical next step was to learn how to grow his own food. Though he had been looking into farms in the Northeast at that time, he ultimately ended up in the Napa Valley at the acclaimed French Laundry’s garden. This proved a unique learning environment. Understanding the needs of the chefs he was growing for accelerated his learning curve in the garden, which ultimately led him to feel that farming was a better fit for him. It resonated on a deeper level than his kitchen experiences.
Brett and Rebecca set their sights on moving back east to be closer to family and their connections with friends and the food industry. They sought out an environment that was supportive of small farms and businesses and the Northeast turned out to be a great fit.
Brett came to hear about Husky Meadows through an ad for a farm manager on the website Good Food Jobs. He describes connecting to Norfolk and Husky Meadows as a serendipitous discovery of the kind of place he and Rebecca wanted to find themselves in – at the intersection of the culinary world and farming.
Since the work of a chef or farmer are usually all encompassing professions, Brett is curious to discover how to balance these two interests at Husky Meadows and Seed & Spoon.
“I am enchanted by the Berkshire foothills. I am excited to jump into what they have built here at Husky Meadows”, says Brett. “From the design of the rooms, to the barn, and the beautiful grounds, it is truly a special place and I plan to contribute what I can to make it a special culinary/farm experience. I see this place as a gathering place for curious eaters, a respite for city chefs, and an inspiration for both. As Culinary Director, Tracy comes to the kitchen from a farming background, and I come to the farm from a kitchen background.We compliment each other. We share a framework. She knows what it’s like to start seedlings in a hoop house, and I often still see vegetables from behind a cutting board.”
This season’s growing plans at the farm reflect the mission of Husky Meadows to bring people together through immersive experiences that always circle back to the interconnectedness of caring for the land and community. To that end Brett plans to grow more for the kitchen: not only ingredients for Steve Archaski’s popular Friday night preordered dinners and expanded prepared foods, but also items for the farm stand. He sees the new farm stand as a way for community members to have more access to the farm’s organic produce as well as becoming a vibrant community center and is planning some fun pop ups throughout the season. You just might find Brett at the grill some Saturday offering hot sandwiches with fresh chimichurri from the garden.
Brett joins the rest of the farm team in creating a community resource for understanding sustainable agriculture and an awareness of the all the work that goes into growing healthy food. Through programs like our Kitchen Garden Workshop in May, home gardeners can glean insights from Brett on soil health, compost and compost tea, variety selection and succession planting. These are among the many things that happen in the fields at Husky Meadows Farm that can be put into practice in home gardens. e